Yesterday I spotted Jesus in a familiar place – in a worship service at the local Baptist church, one of the places we regularly attend worship. While I wasn’t surprised to spot Jesus in church, I was surprised by the manner he appeared to me – he came in the form of one common word, “for.” It’s found twice in one of the verses used in yesterday’s sermon:
But God demonstrates his own love for us,
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For us. Have you ever stopped to think about the many ways we use the word “for?” It has so many different meanings! One online dictionary listed 32 different meanings and uses. And Google Translate lists 12 different Slovak words that can convey these meanings.
Many English translations use “for us” in both instances above, but when I was reading the Slovak translation yesterday the words took on deeper meanings:
God demonstrates his own love for us…
This “for us” in Slovak versions is translated “k nám” – in Slovak this indicates direction. “To us” or “toward us.”
A salesperson at a store might demonstrate a new product for us. This is a far cry from what Paul means. God wasn’t giving a demonstration of how salvation works!
But if I want to show my girls I love them, I demonstrate it to them. I prove it. A hug, a kiss, a word of love or encouragement, or some action. This is what God did. He was proving and displaying his love to us.
Christ died for us.
This “for us” in Slovak versions is translated “za nás“ – it could mean lots of things. With “za” I can buy something – “I bought some bread for (za) two euros.” With “za” I can exchange something – “I’d like to trade exchange this sweater for (za) a larger size.”
The word “for” is so common to us that I think we can easily miss something significant. When Jesus died it was not some disconnected, theoretical event… it was a real proof of God’s love in action. It was an event in which we were “purchased” by God. Through his death Jesus “exchanged” places with us, taking the punishment that we deserved.
Not only that – God didn’t wait until we came to him. God didn’t wait until we were first made clean and worthy of the gift. God chose to do this thing while we were still sinners.
In a way, Jesus really is this Word – “za” – made flesh!
Where have you seen Jesus today?